Envied the World Over, Strasbourg’s Tram Expands Again

Strasbourg Homme de Fer

» Europe’s most famous tramway network suggests deficiencies in the ways Americans expand transit.

It wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to suggest that almost every major metropolitan area in North America either already has a light rail system in operation or is planning to implement one. Unlike the metro or commuter rail systems that are primarily confined to the most populated regions, light rail is universally appealing because of its relatively cheap construction costs and the degree to which its implementation is credited with spurring the revitalization of dying city centers. More than any other mode of public transportation light rail is assumed (rightly or wrongly) to encourage “choice” riders to choose transit over driving, so it is often the most politically palatable choice when it comes to capital expansion decisions.

Compared to the tramways that have been constructed or expanded across Western Europe over the past two decades, though,

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California Planners Recommend Fresno-Hanford for First Phase of State’s High-Speed Line

California High-Speed Rail Phase 1

» Choice of the Central Valley for the initial corridor suggests a serious commitment to full build-out of the California system.

If there were ever a time to question the future of the American high-speed rail project, this may well be it: Republicans in Congress have threatened to reduce transportation spending, several states have backed away from previous commitments to projects that once seemed set in stone, and a couple of already funded projects are likely to be canceled.

And yet California is steaming ahead, its new Governor Jerry Brown a strong supporter of the $45 billion state high-speed rail project and its rail authority endowed with billions of dollars in state and federal funds to advance the scheme. What has always been a long shot is coming to appear increasingly realistic, despite the difficulties that must still be surmounted before the full 520 miles fast train network is

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A New Political Reality Settling in for National Transportation Financing

» Austerity measures that may be introduced in the House could result in significant cutbacks in support for transit. Meanwhile, the decision by Republican legislators to phase out earmarks may reduce support for a future transportation bill.

Tanya Snyder of Streetsblog Capitol Hill broke the news last Friday that House Republicans are planning to push to “stabilize” the Highway Trust Fund by cutting back expenditures to meet revenues without raising any taxes in the process. The result would be a large decrease in overall federal transportation funding — a potential reduction in spending by $7 to 8 billion a year from around $50 billion today. According to Snyder’s sources, transit financing would be hit especially hard, seeing its annual appropriation cut from $8 billion to $5 billion.

This proposal, though it has yet to be announced publicly (and, indeed, it may not represent the eventual thinking of the House Republican leadership) and

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Charlotte’s Once Ambitious Rapid Transit Plan Faces Budget Ax

Charlotte Rapid Transit Plans Map

» A significant decline in local sales tax revenue means that long-term plans for transit expansion have had to be reevaluated with an eye towards fiscal reality.

Ridership on Charlotte’s transit system has grown substantially over the past ten years, increasing from an average of 39,100 daily users in 2000 to 103,500 in 2010. This successful ramp-up in public transportation use in one of the nation’s most sprawling regions can be traced to the 1998 passage by voters of a 1/2-cent sales tax for transportation funding; this measure allowed the local transit authority CATS to significantly expand the number and frequency of bus services offered, and construct North Carolina’s first light rail line, which opened in 2007.

That Blue Line was supposed to be joined by a network of six other corridors — light rail, commuter rail, streetcar, or bus rapid transit — radiating from Center City

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To Replace the ARC Tunnel, a Subway Extension to New Jersey?

New York Rail Map

» A more than $5 billion extension of the 7 Subway could ease congestion into the city center and offer New Jerseyans a relatively painless path to the East Side of Manhattan.

Out with one transit mega-project, in with another.

Faced with the decision last month by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to eliminate state funding for the ARC tunnel — effectively ending the project — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg silently instructed municipal staff to begin studying the possibility of stretching the city’s subway system into the state across the Hudson River. Now preliminary news on the proposal has surfaced. A roughly four-mile extension of the 7 Subway Train from the West Side of Manhattan to Secaucus Junction would cost $5.3 billion and provide the extra trans-Hudson rail link the New York region has been demanding for years.

The 7 Train is currently being extended

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by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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